Monday, April 25, 2011

New Project #2

So I started another new project:

It's hard to tell because of the red heat bulb but those are turkey poults, not chicks. I've had some turkey eggs in the incubator for the last month but something went wrong and they never developed. Luckily, Alex's parents invited me to their house in Palm Dale for Easter and that is just a short drive to Lancaster. It turns out Lancaster is rotten with turkeys. Alex and I went to a ranch that had tons of chicks and ducklings and poults. They even had guinea keets which were tempting but I thought that might be pushing it. Guineas are so loud and I try to be a good neighbor. For some reason the rooster crowing just fades into the background but guineas' calls are designed to be piercing.

I ended up getting to Royal Palm poults:


And two Blue Slate poults:

In the photo at the top the Blue Slates are already a bluish gray color and the Royal Palms are all yellow. I got 4 hoping that at least two will make it to next holiday season.

I drove back from Palm Dale with a bottle of hot water in the box to keep the poults warm and it seemed to work OK but they really cuddled up to the bottle so I'm glad it was a fairly quick trip.

I debated how I was going to raise the poults, if I was going to put them in a brooder or try to get one of the hens to brood them. I always prefer to have a hen raise chicks because then she does all the work and I don't have to worry about it. But in the past the hens have hatched the chicks themselves so they felt attached to the chicks. This time I would be tricking the hen into accepting the poults by sneaking them under her like they just hatched there. I was lucky that the poults I got had just hatched that morning so they were still young enough to go along with the ruse. It was still possible that the hen could reject them though. A hen usually has to be broody for a couple weeks before she'll believe that an egg is hatched. I guess they instinctively know that a chicken egg takes 21 days to hatch. The hen that I wanted to use had only been broody for about a week. She is also very crotchety and a bit aggressive. Her aggressiveness would make her a good mother but only if she accepted the poults as her own, otherwise she might peck them and drive them out of the nest.

When I got home with the poults it was dark, which I hoped would make it easier to get them under the hen. I tried to ease them under her but by the time I got the fourth one in she was agitated and pecking at me. I closed the door and listened to hear if she settled down. It was quiet so I let them be for a while. I checked on them a couple more times before I went to bed and although the hen was always ready to peck my face off there was no sign of the poults so I figured they were firmly tucked under her ruffled feathers.

I had trouble sleeping so it wasn't hard to get up early in the morning to check on them again. Still no sign of the poults but hen seemed even more defensive in the light of day. Here she is puffed up to maximum size with her head twisted around waiting for me to enter striking distance.


You can almost see the fierceness in her eye.


I decided to brave her horny beak and was eventually rewarded by this little fluffy head peaking out. That's one of the Royal Palms.

I went to work but still worried about the poults. It was possible that the hen was just protecting her nest and didn't feel any attachment to the poults. She could just stay on the nest and never take the poults out to eat and drink. She could leave the nest and not return, leaving the poults to die from lack of heat. She could peck them or step on them or do other damage. It made for a long day of worrying and I rushed up the steps when I got home.

The hen was sitting in the dirt of the run with the same angry look on her face. I suspected that the poults were under her but I checked inside the coop just in case. The coop was empty.
I sprinkled some chick starter in front of her and she took a couple big beakfuls of it and made little chirping sounds. As soon as she made the noise the poults darted out from underneath her to see what she was eating. She went on to show them how to drink and then led them back to the little pile of food. All my worrying for nothing.
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After that she made a bee-line for the coop and called for the poults to follow her. Unfortunately they couldn't figure out how to get into the coop with her. Maybe they weren't strong enough to jump up.
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And then this awful thing happened:
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It was hard to watch the little guy getting trampled but I guess these little dramas must get played out repeatedly during the day. I'm sort or glad I'm not around to witness it more.

I made a little dirt ramp thinking that they might be able to get up if there were smaller steps.


The hen decided she had had enough though and came back out and sat on top of the poults. I couldn't get her to budge and they spent the night in the run.

Now that I think of it the last hen spent the first few nights in the run with her chicks. Maybe they were all too small to get back in.

Update 4/27/2011:
The ramp must have worked last night. The hen and poults were all in the coop when I got home from work last night. They came out in the morning though to enjoy a little sunlight:

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Update 4/28/11:
The poults are so much more active in just a couple days. They have no problem jump up and down the ramp to get into the coop.
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